NEW YORK – At least 20 offensive comments made on a Facebook page about the city's annual West Indian Day Parade may have come from police officers, and the department is seeking computer records, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said Wednesday.
The Facebook group, which had more than a thousand supporters, was called "No More West Indian Day Detail." It has since been taken offline, but copies of the posts were made public by lawyers who used the remarks in a gun-possession trial against a Brooklyn man.
Lawyers with the Brooklyn Defender Services, a nonprofit public defender service, used the posts to argue the officer who arrested Tyronne Johnson in 2010 in the early-morning hours before the rowdy parade may have been biased.
The arresting officer was a member of the Facebook group but did not write any posts. Most of the posts spoke of the difficulty of policing the parade, and violence that frequently surrounds it. Others called the parade "ghetto training," and a "scheduled riot."
"It is disturbing when anyone denigrates a community with hateful speech. It is unacceptable when police officers do it," Kelly said in a statement Wednesday.
Kelly said the department can discipline behavior determined to be unbecoming of a police officer or detrimental to the service. He said Internal Affairs detectives were interviewing the officers whose names were associated with negative Facebook posts and getting subpoenas for computer records. Departmental charges could be brought, he said.
A jury acquitted Johnson last month.
The annual Brooklyn parade celebrates the culture of the Caribbean islands and is one of the city's largest outdoors events. Modeled on traditional Carnival festivities, it features spicy West Indian food and dancers wearing revealing feathered costumes.
But it's often violent. Hours after this year's parade, a bystander, 56-year-old Denise Gay, was shot while sitting on a stoop with her daughter just two doors down from the exchange of gunfire involving police and an armed man. That man had just opened fire on another person moments before.
In 2003, a gang member fired a gun into the air during a fight between rival groups. College student Anthony Bartholomew, 20, was pushing through the crowds to get a better view of the procession when he was struck and killed.
In 2005, during celebrations the night before the parade, a 23-year-old man died after being shot in the head.